Forage brassica crops play a key role in livestock grazing and finishing systems in south-eastern Australia, across the dairy, lamb and beef sectors. Brassicas are relatively easy to grow and provide a valuable feed source at various times of the year when livestock feed requirements surpass available feed from existing pastures.
When planning the year ahead and considering sowing a brassica, carefully consider the type of livestock that will graze the crop and when they require the forage brassica in the annual feed budget.
Forage brassica crops, such as leafy turnips and kale are highly digestible and contain well-balanced crude protein levels.
The production of such high-quality feed can help finish livestock in a timely manner and can be used to help maintain animal growth rates during times of slow pasture growth.
Brassicas are a useful tool to include as part of a pasture renovation program. In addition to their feed value they offer the option of sowing new pasture during autumn or during the following spring.
According to Craig Soward of Stephen Pasture Seeds Tasmania, five commonly-grown forage brassica species are forage rape, bulb turnips, forage kale, leafy turnips and swedes.
Bulb turnips are a good option in dairy or beef enterprises as they provide large amounts of quality feed (from the tops and the bulbs) 10–16 weeks after sowing.
Swedes are another winter feed option, either for sheep or cattle, in higher-rainfall areas. They are high yielding and have a longer growing season than turnips, providing high-quality, nutritious feed.
Carefully consider livestock feed requirements for the season ahead when planning this year’s pasture renovation or cropping program and identify potential gaps where a forage brassica can add high-quality feed during periods of peak livestock demand.
Keep in mind the added opportunities of forage brassicas as a weed-control tool for cropping rotations or pasture renovation programs.